This Article is From Jun 09, 2022

"Grandparents More Attached": Aunt Loses Covid Orphan's Custody Fight

Supreme Court overrules Gujarat court's order; refuses to consider age and income as criteria

'Grandparents More Attached': Aunt Loses Covid Orphan's Custody Fight

Grandparents of child orphaned in Covid second wave had approached the Supreme Court.

New Delhi:

In a battle for custody of a six-year-old boy, whose parents died of Covid last year, the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of his paternal grandparents over his maternal aunt, saying that "grandparents are more emotionally attached" to the child. This overrules the Gujarat High Court, which gave custody of the child to his aunt. She will get visitation rights to meet the child.

"In our society, paternal grandparents would always take better care of their grandson," the bench of Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose said, adding that the child will also get better education in Ahmedabad, where they live. The aunt lives in Dahod, about 200 kilometres from Ahmedabad.

The Gujarat High Court had handed the child to his 46-year-old aunt, saying she was employed with the central government, unmarried and lived in a joint family, so would be better for the child's upbringing. The grandparents challenged the decision in the top court, which has said income cannot be the criterion.

The Supreme Court did not consider age to be a factor either - the grandfather is 71, the grandmother is 65 - as it said, "People stay strong even at more advanced ages... When paternal grandparents say they are ready to take care of the child, they become more energetic."

The boy's father died on May 13 last year and his mother a month later, during the deadly second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in India. The mother's family took him away from his paternal grandparents' house in Ahmedabad for her last rites. He was with them since.

The grandparents approached the High Court, saying they were concerned about his whereabouts, health and education.

Before granting the custody to the aunt, the High Court judges interacted with the child and noted, "He is comfortable with the petitioner and his wife (grandparents); however he is not in a position to give an independent preference between the petitioner and the maternal aunt."

After the Supreme Court order on Thursday, the paternal grandparents' lawyer, DN Ray, told NDTV, "The custody battle was between the paternal grandparents and the maternal aunt. The maternal grandparents did not claim custody. The paternal grandparents had looked after the child even during the lifetime of his parents, since the child was 20 days old."

"The High Court in its order wrongly gave the child to the maternal aunt, who lives in Dahod, which is a predominantly tribal area... ignoring the better education and health facilities available at Ahmedabad," he added.